It doesn’t matter that months have passed since my brother’s gray Tercel was hauled away from here with bits of him inside. Or that I’ve searched this patch of grassy ground where it sat many times by now. I step from my car and comb over it again, for cigarette butts, scraps of paper, convenience store wrappers, hoping yet to find some cheap refuge among this protected grass. From the questions at least. When did he decide the only sanctuary for his troubled mind was in the stainless trigger of his beloved Kimber? Had he tried to tell us in words what eventually had to be spelled out in bruised ink? “To my family, know that I love you…” A Bud Light can nestles in the grass, and I wonder if it was left by someone he knew, or a reveler passing through. Caleb drank Coors. Tucked between the fence post and barbed wire, a single red rose shakes its droopy head in a passing breeze. Its veins are empty, the plastic well still clinging to its stem, long since dry. I untangle the wasted flower from its binding, remembering the steward’s stern warning, “No shrining. No gatherings, or you will lose your entrance privilege.” Holding the forbidden sentiment in my hand, I look over the gate across the timothy, and oatgrass, knee-high and brown with summer. Past the Mima Mounds with their bloated bellies, and the bat boxes perched on their poles waiting for the day when one of Townsend’s big-eared bats will need a resting place, rather, a place to rest. To where the old oaks commune, fifteen or twenty of them spread out beyond the prairie. They’re lop-sided and scraggly with patchy foliage on limbs that jut at odd angles like bones broken and never repaired. They surveil from their highest post, and I watch them with reverence and accusation, in a strange way blaming them. I rest my chin against the cold metal gate and find the sign a few feet in front of me. Nachez Trail Preserve, it says. Preserve, it says. Preserve.

B. Bilby Garton is a senior in the Creative Writing program at Central Washington University. She lives and writes from her home in the foothills of Mt. Rainier. This is her inaugural published work. Reach her at [email protected]

Photo by Christina Brobby